Before I begin, please note that I’m writing this from a North American, and more specifically Canadian perspective. If you’re looking for Marmite, I can’t help you. Although, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it around. I’ll keep an eye out for you.
Back in 2002, when we originally moved to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a lot of familiar foods from home were very hard to come by. Times have changed. A LOT. It probably makes a difference that we also live in the capital city of Taipei now too, which is much more international. But I’m guessing Kaohsiung has come a long way with imports as well. These days, you can find just about anything that you desire. (Although still no International Delights Amaretto Creamer or Liquorice Allsorts, sadly.) It might not be cheap. It might not be convenient to get to. And when you get to that inconvenient store, that had your item last week, with your huge wad of cash in hand, it may no longer be available. Yes, frustrating.
I should also say that I’ve been gone long enough that I probably forget many items that I just haven’t thought of in a long time and I also just can’t keep up with all the new ones either. Whenever I go home and step into a grocery store for the first time, I’m completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices for one product. Every year there are more and more! Who needs to choose from 25 different types of mayonnaise?? And the cereal aisle and junk food aisle?? Come on now. My friends in Canada and in the States…beware. Those groceries are multiplying all around you. Keep an eye on them.
Let’s get to it. Here are my favourites.
“You have Costco in Taiwan?!” Yes. Yes we do. I wouldn’t live here if not. I’m exaggerating. But I love Costco. I really do. I love the customer service. I love the foods + awesome other stuff that they sell. And I love that it’s with me in Canada or Taiwan. Costco has stuck by me, wherever I go. In Taiwan, you can’t beat the prices for cereals, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, meats, cheeses, yogurts etc. Plus, after many a food scandal in Taiwan, I prefer to buy imports over local, given the choice. And of course, they stock many things that you just don’t see other places that often like tortillas, sour cream and sometimes baby spinach! Thank you Costco.
Wellcome would have to be my second favourite stop for grocery imports. They’re everywhere. I have one right outside of our apartment building, but it doesn’t have an import aisle, unfortunately. Never fear though, I can hop on my bike and arrive at at least 3 other locations in 5 – 10 minutes with a great selection of imports! Depending on where you’re at, you probably can too. My favourite is right outside Guting MRT station, exit 6. When there I like to stock up on beans (kidney, refried, black, pinto, white…), worcestershire sauce, olives, pickled jalapenos, Thai food supplies and other goodies. Wellcome has come a long way in recent years with the imports, and I for one appreciate that.
A French chain, and probably the largest grocery/department stores in Taiwan. The locations in Neihu and Tianmu boast the best import aisles, from my experience. They are probably slightly cheaper than and have a few extra things that you won’t find at Wellcome, such as canned green chiles and lasagna noodles. They have a bigger produce area and a nice selection of fresh herbs. They also have a great bakery section and some great ($$) meats and ($$) cheeses annnnd chocolate. OK, now I’m wondering why I prefer Wellcome to Carrefour again? Oh yes, I have to drive 25 minutes to Carrefour. Because of that, I tend to only get there every 2 or 3 weeks and try to stock up a little when I do. I’m sad to say that it seems they are phasing out their beans. And beans are very important to me.
I lump these two together because they are kind of the same thing to me. They’re overpriced, upscale supermarkets. Yes, they both have decent import aisles, but with only a handful of things that you won’t find at Wellcome or Carrefour. And for the price differences on everything else, it’s not really worth it for me to shop there unless I’m looking for something very specific. Masa Harina. That’s all I can think of at the moment that I would go out of my way to get. I have found recently that Jason’s imports seem to be scaled back and C!ty Super has the better variety of the two.
Ikea does have a decent little grocery section. It’s not somewhere that I go specifically for food though. And to be honest, I mostly just stop in after buying my random home decor items, to pick up some chocolate for the drive home.
Now we’re entering Little America. (Tianmu) This is where Taipei American School is and a large number of expats reside in this area. Wellman’s Market is one of two places that you can go for the really specific items. Like…pepperoni (I’m personally not a huge fan of the salami pepperoni from Costco), graham crackers, or a variety of hard to find spices.
Not far from Wellman’s Market, it has a similar selection of products. It has the added bonus of a being a sandwich shop, though I’ve never eaten there. I find it to be slightly pricier but also more reliable with certain items than Wellman’s. And there’s a generous selection of nice dairy/cheese products and meats.
A Japanese chain, similar to Wellcome with less imports.
Reminds me of Carrefour, but not quite as good.
If you need help finding something specific, leave me a comment. I’d love to try help. Or check out some of the many pages/groups on Facebook dedicated to foreigners living (and eating) in Taiwan. I love how the common goal of finding/cooking familiar foods brings people together! I recommend Food for Foreigners or What’s for dinner? (Taipei).
Well, that’s the round up of what I know. I’m sure I have missed some and just don’t know about others. Be sure to let me know of any good info you may have on the subject.